Empowerment through Awareness and Education: Movie Theaters

I went to the movies this past weekend very excited to see a movie I had been anxiously waiting for it to come out! I asked the person at the box office if she knew if the seats for people in wheelchairs were all full? She said, “I’m not sure, most likely,” and followed by saying “if so, you can ask people if they can move, but I don’t know if they will…”

So it was a full house, which I was not surprised. I was surprised about something else: I was very sad to see that as I rolled right by the area specifically assigned for People IN WHEELCHAIRS, which happened to be FULL, people did not care one bit about me, and were ready to comfortably watch the movie, not to mention the fact that none of those people were in a wheelchair or accompanying a person IN a wheelchair. The inconsideration towards the ONLY person in a wheelchair was disappointing, to say the least.

The movie was about to start. My boyfriend and I were lucky to get two of the last four tickets left. I knew there were very limited spaces left altogether. There was one theater comfortable seat left (in the wheelchair section) and a space for me to park my chair. This means I would have had to watch the whole movie in my chair, which is not very comfortable.

-First lesson to all of you: Many wheelchair users like to get OUT of their wheelchairs and transfer to a more comfortable chair with a taller back rest perhaps. Firstly, I could have stayed in my chair the whole time and let my boyfriend sit in the only theater seat left, as no one offered to move. Secondly, I could have asked some of those people to please move, and thirdly, get a security person to assist me.

None of these became options, as we happened to find two seats left two rows higher than this designated area for wheelchair users. These seats had a better view and because I am thankful to be light enough, AND that I was with someone who could actually carry me up the stairs, we decided to go up a few rows and leave my chair down there.

The main reason why I did not ask any of those people to move in the first place or gotten help from a manager at that time is because:

1. I like to know what I’m talking about and I was unsure if those seats that happen to have the “wheelchair sticker” were for people in wheelchair to transfer into them or only for their “companions.”
2. I didn’t want to make a big scene right before the movie.
3. Most importantly, I did not want to let these people’s inconsideration make me miss the beginning of the movie I had been waiting to see.

Do you think this is it? Do you think I was going to go home after this uncomfortable situation like it was no big deal? If you know me well, you’d know I would not.

Firstly: I read exactly what the sticker on the seats in the wheelchair section said, AND I found that: Just because there is room to park a wheelchair, it does NOT mean the wheelchair user has to stay in their chair. They, and their companions, have the right to sit in a comfortable seat. Anyone else needs to move away from those seats.

Secondly: On my way out, I asked for the manager. I told him everything that had happened and he said, of course, this should NOT have happened. He said, next time, ask them to move if you’d like or just come get one of us. I told him I was lucky my boyfriend found those other two seats 2 rows higher from us and even more, that I’m light enough that he can carry me up. I said, “but what about others who would not be able to do this?” This would not be right, so I asked him to please teach his staff about these types of situations. The first employee from the theatres should have told me in the first place, if the wheelchair assigned seats are full, you get one of us and we’ll ask them to move, not “I don’t know if they will move…” . He apologized an gave me two free tickets to come back for hopefully a better experience.

Wheelchair Users: Yes, you can ask people to move out of those seats assigned “for people in wheelchairs and their companions.” If they don’t cooperate, you can get a security guard or a manager who knows and respects this so they can help you move them to another area. Don’t feel bad. These spaces are already very limited, which is unfortunate, so sit where there’s availability and accessibility for you, and don’t feel bad for moving others who are not in a wheelchair or accompanying a person in one.

People in General: Just please be considerate and RESPECT the spaces assigned for people in WHEELCHAIRS, in general, as they’re already very scarce and limited. Guess what? For us, people in wheelchairs, we only have ONE row assigned for us and many of us can’t walk; therefore, we can’t just go downstairs or upstairs to the many other seat rows that most can access. So please respect these spaces.

This will lead me to the bathroom stalls for a later post, but same concept: I want everyone to think about this for now: most bathrooms only have ONE bathroom that is Wheelchair Accessible (hence, the wheelchair sticker on it); whereas for most people, in most cases, they have more than one stall to choose from. Many times, there are 5 or even ten stalls you can choose from, and people in wheelchairs usually only have ONE we can use, and are extremely lucky if we find two bathroom stalls for wheelchairs- this is pretty unusual by the way. For now, just know that for a person in a wheelchair or with a disability it can be health threatening to not empty our bladder so please be considerate. This will develop into the next topic.

Please Know This Well: I don’t like to judge or bash people because they don’t know what is like to be in a wheelchair or live my life. You know why I don’t judge people? Because fortunately I was once abled bodied but, unfortunately, I did not know anything someone in a wheelchair or with a paralysis had to go through. I had NO CLUE. Now that I know what is like, I feel it is my responsibility to educate others and make them aware. I will certainly always stand up for myself because more often than not, people will not do it for you, either because of lack of knowledge or carelessness, so you always have to be your own advocate, and in many ways stand up for others.

*Help me by sharing this information with everyone you know. It’s okay if you didn’t know this or even if you have done this before, but now that you know, please share the knowledge.

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